A couple weeks ago I attended a (virtual) seminar. The speaker/teacher was Scott Reintgen and the title of the seminar was “How to Get an Agent and Navigate Publishing.” This was a lot to cover in an hour and a half on a Monday night, but the presentation was great and the information was quite helpful. With an audience presumably spanning newbies to whatever-I-am, there was stuff that I already knew, had already heard a hundred times. But Reintgen also had a lot of simple, practical insight that I hadn’t heard before, and he put a utilitarian spin on some of the more mystifying moments of the submission process. Brought it down to Earth. I’d love to just post my notes because they are full of good bits, but that would be going too far, taking the wind out of Reintgen’s sails since these seminars are part of what he does. If you are in the process of submitting, I would recommend taking advantage of one of his seminars, if one comes up.
I will go ahead and share a few things that I learned, but not until after I give Reintgen a little plug.
Scott Reintgen is the author of the Nyxia trilogy and other science fiction and fantasy books. His books are mainly for YA and middle grades, so he makes lots of appearances at schools and he is passionate about teaching writing. You can find his website at itspronouncedrankin.com. (Yes, it is pronounced “rankin.”) Every single one of his books on Goodreads has an over-4-star review. Here is a list of his books, consisting of three series:
- Nyxia Unleashed
- Nyxia Uprising
- Blood Sworn
- Saving Fable
- Escaping Ordinary
- Breaking Badlands
And here are some of the interesting things that I learned from him:
In your query summary, make sure clear stakes are outlined. What does your character stand to win or lose? Showcase your skill and include plot plus character plus setting. Give concrete details and focus on a main character, even if you have a cast ensemble. Hogwarts doesn’t sell the book. Harry does. (I will now be going back and rewriting my queries, before I send out another one.) Which brings me to this gem: query in waves. Send out a batch, rewrite the query, and send again. This makes sure that not all your eggs are in one basket. If you only write one letter, perhaps it is the letter that sucks and not the book or the idea for the book. (Genius!)
And here’s another gem that is going to change the way I submit: have a “thing.” I already had an inkling that my thing as a children’s writer would be to dress in a certain, cooky way for appearances (to go along with my nom de plume). But what could be my thing as a regular, ol’ novelist? Well, my husband and I did some brainstorming after the seminar—because I knew this was bound to be good advice—and we came up with this: my “thing” will be accessibility of further resources, which would include encouraging book clubs. I have already reworked my books webpage to reflect this, and now I need to come up with a way to weave it into my submission process. I think this works well. It helps market me, sure, but it’s also exactly the kind of thing I am passionate about and am in a position to do. I have been blogging book reviews for more than six years and I am always making these further resources as part of my process: music playlists, questions about the book, maps, process notes, etc. Plus, I’m not half bad at making appearances and doing readings. So book clubs it is!
And last but not least—what I’ve known a long time: you can get rejected because an agent had a bad day. Publication is a combination of luck along with time and practice. Hundreds of rejections are usually part of the process. And the show isn’t over with the publication date. The song and dance has just begun and, quite frankly, even after all this, this could still be a one-night Broadway run.